North Xtra: Sisters at Pine-Richland hunt a big finish in pool

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Pine Richland's Murslack sisters, seniors Kristen and Allison, are gearing up for more WPIAL victories.

Both sisters -- who along with their brother, Nathan, are actually triplets -- saw their fair share in 2012. Kristen won the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke at the WPIAL championships as a junior last year. Allison got fourth place in the 500-yard freestyle. But this season, the Murslacks are more formidable than ever.

"My goal is definitely to win [at WPIALs]," said Kristen. "That's pretty reasonable for me -- I would like to come out on top."

She has actually already done that, having won WPIAL and PIAA titles as a sophomore and two more WPIAL titles last year.

Kristen noted that she was also seeking victory at the state level.

So is Allison: "I would want to get top three at WPIALs. And in the top four or top five at states."

Both girls are well on their way to meeting their 2013 goals. Kristen has been in the WPIAL Class AAA top three in the 200-yard IM (2:06.08) and the 500-yard freestyle (5:05.41). Allison has been WPIAL top-five in the 200-yard freestyle (1:57.12). In the 100-yard butterfly, Allison has been on the WPIAL top times list for her time of 1:02.32. And like Kristen, Allison is in the WPIAL top 10 for the 500-yard freestyle (5:12.87).Clearly, hard work in training is paying off for the sisters.

"Pretty much all season we've been doing two-a-days" said Kristen.

Morning practices (as well as afternoon) are nothing new to high school swim teams, but for Pine-Richland's elite swimmers, there's a twist. The Rams, in three different months of swim season, ran one week in which there were five two-a-days (Monday through Friday). Then, they went back one more day to practice on Saturday.

"All other weeks we ran just Monday and Wednesday mornings [as part of two-a-days]," coach Pete Barry said.

He added that not all Rams participated in the extended schedule of two-a-days; only about 30 percent of the team did.

The Murslacks, as well as Pine-Richland's other high level swimmers, have officially created a time-warp to encompass their 2013 workload.

"I think it's just gotten us in shape a lot better," Allison said. "There have been more opportunities for us to get our times faster."

Allison explained that not everyone can understand the motivation of swimmers, especially when it involves getting up before 5 in the morning to jump in a freezing-cold pool.

"We get some weird looks," Kristen added.

Kristen agreed, however, that non-swimmers could probably understand that the real fun comes from winning.

Winning is something to which both Murslack sisters have become accustomed, especially during the regular season. As the WPIAL championship meet approaches, the girls commented on the prospects of facing tougher competition.

"When we get to bigger meets such as WPIAL and states, there's a lot better competition than in dual meets," Kristen said.

She felt that Butler's Stephanie O'Toole as well as relay teams from North Allegheny and Franklin Regional would put up difficult races for her. Allison and Kristen have trained themselves to go fast regardless of the competition level.

"I can have my own race without any competition," Allison said. "But when there's competition, I can definitely pick it up a little. ... I think it's not really mental for me. It's just really muscle memory. I swim [in meets] as I do in practice. It takes off the pressure of having to win and trying to score those points."

Next year, both girls will compete for NCAA Division I programs. Allison will swim for Eastern Michigan University and Kristen will swim for Auburn. In both cases the girls chose the school that really jumped out at them for the opportunities they would provide.

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